Proud Merino history to continue at Barcaldine Downs

New Barcaldine Downs owners committed to breeding rams for sale

Agribusiness
Barcaldine Downs manager Dennis Allpass inspects some of the mixed age stud ewes that have just been crutched ready for lambing.

Barcaldine Downs manager Dennis Allpass inspects some of the mixed age stud ewes that have just been crutched ready for lambing.

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With more than a century of tradition to its name, it's fitting that Barcaldine Downs' new manager was the overseer 24 years ago, and whose family once lived just up the road.

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Mention the name Barcaldine Downs and you conjure up flashbacks of history - its tenacious Scottish beginnings on the Mitchell district frontier, its simmering proximity to one of the headquarters of the Great Shearers' Strike of 1891, and more than a century of understated dedication to the Merino tradition in western Queensland.

The property came into existence when Donald Cameron and his son John, along with James and William Crombie, overlanded sheep from the NSW New England district in 1863, settling on a 40 mile frontage to the Alice River in the middle of the new Queensland colony.

They christened their home block Barcaldine after a family property in Scotland and named others Glen Patrick and Cedar Creek.

Donald Cameron brought his family to live there in 1866 and in time his eldest daughters married the Crombie brothers.

After experiencing the devastation of drought and debt that is part of the western Queensland story, the property was eventually sold to one of the pastoralists instrumental in mounting opposition to the 1891 Shearers' Strike, George Fairbairn.

In turn he sold the property to James Clark and Peter Tait in 1914, with Henry Sealy as manager, and it became part of the Clark and Tait stable.

The Merino stud was founded in 1933 on 2000 flock ewes mated with rams from NSW studs Bundemar, Wanganella, Goolgumbla, Coonong, and Eli Elwah.

It has won countless show ribbons since then, and current overseer Matt Baker was named national Merino young judge in 2017.

Its new owners say they remain committed to breeding and selling quality rams.

With more than a century of tradition to its name, it's fitting that Barcaldine Downs' new manager was the overseer 24 years ago, and whose family once lived just up the road.

Barcaldine Downs manager Dennis Allpass helps sort stud ewes for a business-as-usual approach. Mr Allpass said a September ram sale remained a firm date on the property's calendar.

Barcaldine Downs manager Dennis Allpass helps sort stud ewes for a business-as-usual approach. Mr Allpass said a September ram sale remained a firm date on the property's calendar.

Andrew Kibble's Tawarri Pastoral Company has recently concluded the purchase of the historic Merino sheep property in the state's central west and is in the process of purchasing The Patrick next door.

The two properties combined give the Toowoomba businessman a 35,200ha aggregation, which manager Dennis Allpass said would keep him busy.

The Patrick was Mr Allpass's family home, and he spent seven years as overseer at Barcaldine Downs between 1989 and 1996 before taking over the management of Mantuan Downs for Clark and Tait.

When Clark and Tait's 121-year-old grazing business was put on the market last year, it was Barcaldine Downs' great reputation, history and high quality sheep flock that attracted the interest of Mr Kibble, his CEO Tim Miles said.

"After much due diligence, we decided this was the best investment we could make - Barcaldine Downs represented great value for money for us," he said.

The purchase will add to Tawarri Pastoral's aggregation of four properties in the Upper Hunter region at Merriwa, to the cattle and farming properties Earlwood and Nellybri at Glenmorgan, and to the Dorper and goat operations Goolburra and Longlands at Wyandra.

Mr Miles said there were positive signs for the Merino industry and the large investment in exclusion fencing was one of the property's strongest selling points.

They intend to maintain the property as a Merino stud along with a commercial flock.

While much-respected manager Duncan Ferguson retired at the end of March, he has been retained as a consultant for the stud operation.

Mr Allpass said that after 24 years, it was good to be back in the Barcaldine district with a busy schedule of work to do.

They intend on running cattle only at The Patrick at this stage, which is unfenced.

Relief rain has grown good herbage for sheep at Barcaldine Downs but the cotton seed pile stands ready for supplementation if needed.

Relief rain has grown good herbage for sheep at Barcaldine Downs but the cotton seed pile stands ready for supplementation if needed.

The pile of cotton seed beside the Barcaldine Downs shearing shed tells a story of ongoing dry times, despite the break in the season received in other parts of central west Queensland.

Manager Dennis Allpass said only one fall of rain had been received over summer, which had brought some grass response on the red soil and good herbage on the downs country.

"The sheep are doing really well, I think they'll hang on," he said.

The autumn program of crutching and pregnancy testing is in full swing, along with shearing the stud sires, prior to lambing due to start around May 20.

The muster has given them a chance to draft up the horned and poll sheep, which had been running together for drought management purposes.

Kibble Family Group CEO Tim Miles said it was business as usual while they weathered the COVID-19 storm along with the rest of the world.

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